College Football Teams with the Best Traditions
Some traditions are old and revered, and some are new and rebellious. Whatever your school's favorite tradition might be, one thing's for sure—college football has the best ones out there, and they make people completely flip their you-know-what.
There are hundreds of traditions throughout the ranks of college football, from low-level Division III all the way up to the big boys. It's how well they've stood the test of time and how emphatically they're celebrated today that might make them worthy of cracking this illustrious countdown.
There's no doubt you'll recognize some, most or even all of the traditions we're about to lay out, but that just furthers our point—college football does it right and brings together young and old every fall Saturday.
Apologies in advance if your school's favorite tradition doesn't crack the top 20, but let us know how you feel below after reading through which teams put on the best traditions in college football.
20. Arkansas: Calling the Hogs
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"The Calling of the Hogs" is something Arkansas Razorback supporters like to do as a rally cry. It consists of fans raising their hands above their hands, waving them and yelling "Woo, pig sooie!"
It makes sense, as Arkansas' mascot is a wild hog, and word is that it started sometime in the 1920s when farmers were attempting to encourage a losing Razorbacks squad. Fans will do this before kickoff and really anytime something is worth celebrating around Arkansas.
Whatever works, right?
19. Hawaii: The Haka
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When you think of storied college football programs, Hawaii doesn't come to mind.
Colt Brennan led the Rainbow Warriors to a BCS bowl in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, and that also happens to be right around when "The Haka" made its way to Hawaii.
It's an original Maori war dance that the team uses before games to get amped up. Perhaps it rubs some people the wrong way, but it's a neat idea and goes to show that a tradition doesn't need to be long in tenure to be one of the best in college football.
18. Texas: Hook 'em Horns
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In what is probably the most recognizable (and appropriate) hand gesture in college football, Texas uses the "Hook 'Em Horns" in honor of their mascot, a Longhorn. It's fitting—it looks just like a longhorn steer. The sign is often seen during the playing of the school song, fight song and generally whenever there is a close-up camera shot of a Longhorn fan.
The origin of the Hook 'Em Horns goes back to 1955 when a head cheerleader got the idea for the gesture from shadow puppets, of all things.
Rivals will point the horns downward in an effort to insult Texas, but that's just mean, don't you think?
17. Florida: Gator Chomp
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While the Longhorns have a famous hand sign that resembles their mascot, the Florida Gators also pay homage to their nickname by doing the "Gator Chomp." One simply alternates moving one arm up and one arm down to simulate an alligator's mouth, and it can look rather intimidating, especially when 90,000 people are doing it while accompanied by the Jaws music.
At the high school level, it's also used to tell an opposing fanbase to shut its collective mouth. Or maybe that's just the way it was used around my neck of the woods...who knows.
16. Nebraska: Tunnel Walk
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There are other schools with notable entrances, including South Carolina and Miami (FL), but they fall short of Nebraska's famous "Tunnel Walk." During the walk from the locker room to the Memorial Stadium field, players and coaches touch the lucky horseshoe and are cheered on by fans lined up along the red carpet.
This tradition only dates back to 1994, but it has rapidly grown as one of the most popular and exhilarating entrances in all of college football. Last season in the Cornhuskers' final home game, legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne led the team out to the field in his final year as the school's athletic director.
15. Virginia Tech: Enter Sandman
Speaking of relatively new traditions, Virginia Tech adopted Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as its own, blaring the song for the team's entrance since 2000. While the Hokies may be stealing a page from Mariano Rivera's book, the song gets everyone all up in a tizzy, players and fans alike.
Tasked with selecting a song to play along with the Hokies' entrance video on their brand-spanking new scoreboard, "Enter Sandman" was the choice, and Virginia Tech hasn't looked back.
As you can see in the video above, it can also be played during pulse-pounding in-game situations, which seems to do the trick.
14. Alabama: Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer
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This list wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of the best team in college football.
Alabama has its fair share of traditions, including The Million Dollar Band, but Crimson Tide fans will cheer "Rammer Jammer" near the end of games when victory is no longer in doubt.
And it rarely is for Alabama.
The cheer, which originally was a pregame ritual, was actually banned in the early 2000s because it was considered unsportsmanlike, but that move met a landslide of criticism. The Rammer-Jammer was the student newspaper back in the 1920s, while the yellowhammer is Alabama's state bird.
13. West Virginia: Country Roads
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" is a famous hit of John Denver's, and it also happens to mention West Virginia, making it the perfect victory song for the Mountaineers. This tradition dates back to the 1970s when the song was released, and it is also played before every home game.
The ritual really got rolling when Denver performed the song in 1980 to dedicate Mountaineer Field to coach Don Nehlen. As the video proves above, if you don't know every lyric to "Take Me Home, Country Roads," you're not from West Virginia.
12. Oklahoma: Sooner Schooner
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Who doesn't love it when animals run out onto the football field? Even when the occasional squirrel makes its way out onto the gridiron, people can't get enough of it.
In this case, two horses named "Boomer" and "Sooner" carry the Sooner Schooner wagon across the field after each Oklahoma score.
The tradition dates back to 1964 and became the school's official mascot in 1980. The Conestoga wagon is driven by Oklahoma's all-male pep squad known as the RUF/NEKS.
11. USC: Traveler
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Prior to every USC home game, Traveler, a pure white horse, is ridden out onto the field by a Trojan warrior. The ride has been a staple at the L.A. Coliseum for decades on end dating back to 1961, and the horse has been a USC mascot throughout the last half century.
Aside from Traveler's dramatic entrance, the USC Trojan drum major will run out to the middle of the field and ceremoniously stab the USC logo with his sword before the game begins.
10. Florida State: Chief Osceola
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Continuing with the horse theme, Florida State gets the edge over USC and Oklahoma, as it directly honors one of its own—Chief Osceola, the former leader of the Seminole Indian tribe back in the 1800s.
During home games on Bobby Bowden Field, "Chief Osceola" rides Renegade onto the field, giant spear in hand. It was Bowden, the historic Florida State head coach, who got the ball rolling on this tradition back in 1978.
9. Georgia: Uga
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This little dude is a trooper, sitting through every Georgia home game inside his custom-built doghouse and mini Georgia uniform. It gets hot down in Athens, so Uga has to sit on a bag of ice to avoid overheating.
Whenever Uga unfortunately passes away, the English Bulldog is interred in a mausoleum at the entrance of Sanford Stadium before the bone is passed to the next Uga in line.
8. Notre Dame: Play Like a Champion Today
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We have to note here that just like Notre Dame, Oklahoma is also well known for using the saying "Play like a champion today." Just not as well known as the Fighting Irish.
While the Sooners have had a sign with the famous term above the exit of their locker room since the 1940s, a similar sign gained more recognition in the 1980s at South Bend as Notre Dame became a college football powerhouse.
The Fighting Irish have other renounced traditions/symbols such the Irish Guard and Touchdown Jesus to hang their hat on as well.
7. Auburn: War Eagle
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The War Eagle is perhaps the longest tenured college football tradition out there. Legend has it that the first War Eagle was retrieved from a Civil War battlefield and then brought to an Auburn home game by the soldier who rescued it.
The Tigers would go on to win that game over Georgia, and ever since, the War Eagle of Auburn has taken flight before every home game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
6. Colorado: Ralphie's Run
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Forget the fact that Colorado only managed to eke out one victory last season, because the Buffaloes have one of the wildest traditions in college football.
Imagine trying to control a buffalo as it runs around on a football field. Granted, it is chained up, and female bison are used because they are smaller and less aggressive, but still.
That's exactly the task facing five Colorado student-athletes before the start of each half at Folsom Field. The buffalo's name is Ralphie, and the tradition of running her and her successors around began in 1967, even though Ralphie made her first appearance way back in 1934 when Colorado adapted the Buffalo moniker.
5. Clemson: Howard's Rock, Running Down the Hill
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Teams will do anything to keep a winning streak alive, and when there was a rock that belonged to then-head coach Frank Howard present when Clemson defeated Wake Forest back in the 1960s, that rock was there to stay.
Before the start of each home game at Memorial Stadium, which becomes one of the most intimidating places to play in the country at night, players gather around Howard's Rock and rub it for good luck before running down the hill leading to the field.
4. Wisconsin: Jump Around
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When there's a tradition strong enough to keep fans in their seats until the end of the third quarter even if the game is no longer in doubt, you know it must be special. That tradition would be when the Wisconsin student body—and thousands more across the stadium—jump up and get down to House of Pain's "Jump Around."
It originated in 1998 when the Badgers hadn't scored in the first three quarters in a game against Purdue. "House of Pain" was played through the sound system, pumping up Wisconsin and its crowd, as the Badgers came back to win.
3. Army and Navy: March-on
Photo credit: Mike Morones, Military Times
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Two teams share this honored tradition that takes place before the annual Army vs. Navy game at the end of the regular season. Before the game begins, cadets and midshipmen march into the stadium on the way to their seats, which might as well not even exist—students are rarely seen sitting during the game.
Maybe Army and Navy will never compete for a national championship in the modern era, but the march in and the game itself between the two service schools will always go down as one of the best traditions in college football.
2. Ohio State: Dotting the 'I'
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The official name of this storied tradition is "Script Ohio," which is the formation Ohio State's band lines up in during halftime at every home game. But the moment everyone looks forward to is the dotting of the "I," which takes place once "Ohio" has been spelled out by the band.
The honor of dotting the I is reserved for either the band's senior-most sousaphone players or famous celebrities and alumni. The tradition began in 1936 and has remained one of the strongest in all of college football over the past 70-plus years.
1. Texas A&M: The 12th Man
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Move out of the way, Seattle Seahawks, College Station is the owner of the 12th Man tradition. And because we're all about the fans here, the 12th Man at Kyle Field gives Texas A&M the best tradition in college football.
In fact, Texas A&M has ownership rights of the trademarked phrase. The Seahawks are only able to use the "12th Man" with permission from the school in exchange for public acknowledgment to A&M's ownership and a licensing fee.
The Aggies student section gets just as much credit as its team when a touchdown is scored, because after all, it is the 12th Man. Students stand and sway back and forth in celebration while working in unison to create an intimidating "Ooooh" sound when opposing teams have the football.